Forever is now
Sega Forever is bringing classic Sega console emulation to mobile, for the amazing price of ‘free’ (unless you pay to remove adverts). With a new old game promised every two weeks, and the prospect of any game from SG-1000 to Dreamcast making an appearance (in the right circumstances), our minds are racing as we imagine our favourite retro games suddenly being playable on our phones. So what do we want to see? There are two decades’ worth of Sega consoles to dream about. Here are our 20 most-wanted right now, heavily slanted towards Sega-published titles because they’re more likely to get the nod than third-party classics.
Panzer Dragoon Saga (Sega Saturn)
It’s one of Sega Saturn’s most treasured exclusives, and one of eBay’s most desired collectibles. A sprawling RPG spanning four discs on Saturn, Panzer Dragoon Saga has never been ported. To anything. The Sega Forever team is well aware of the desire to get this one re-released, but also even more aware that getting Saturn games to run on any other system is incredibly difficult. But this is at the top of their own most-wanted list, and Sega owns the rights. So expect this to be one of the first Saturn titles that makes the list… probably in 2019. Sigh.
Sega Rally Championship (Sega Saturn)
It’s incredible, really, that unquestionably one of the greatest racing games of all time has only ever been ported to the Japanese PS2 and nothing else (unless you count the hilariously pared-down GBA ‘port’). Even MAME emulations have trouble with the AI, making the Sega Saturn version the best way to play this outside of a seaside arcade. Chances of it coming to Sega Forever? High… but don’t count on the cars themselves making the cut. Lancia and Toyota licensed their vehicles, along with several real-world sponsors, making this a legal minefield, even for something as innocuous as a mobile phone port. Still, once it works, Manx TT could also make the jump, as it uses a modified version of the same engine.
Land of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse (Master System/Game Gear)
Mickey’s owned by Disney, and Disney loves to litigate, meaning the chances of turning a blind eye to a sly port of this 8-bit classic are zero. Permission is needed, even though Sega both developed and published the game. Legal issues aside, this remains one of the best-designed platformers ever made. At around an hour in length, this is super-intelligent, charming, Metroidvania platformer is perfect for mobile gaming, yet is currently disappearing into history on Master System and Game Gear shelves. That’s just not right. Mickey deserves better.
Super Monaco GP (Mega Drive/Genesis)
This classic racer was a home conversion of an arcade game, appearing on everything from ZX Spectrum to Mega-CD. But it’s the Mega Drive/Genesis version that remains the best-loved version. There’s a championship mode complete with a brilliant rivalry system that allows you to move up through the teams. The game hasn’t appeared on any compilation releases to date, presumably because Sega never held an official license for the Monaco circuit, as was common in the Wild West days of ‘80s gaming. The Ayrton Senna-branded sequel is probably one license too far for the Sega Forever team to get back from Sony, so we’d say the original is in with the best shout.
Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles (Mega Drive/Genesis)
Sonic 3 has only appeared on ONE system since the Sega Saturn, and that’s Nintendo DS. The problem is apparently something to do with the music. It’s still not entirely known whether (or how much) Michael Jackson wrote for the game, but something somewhere is causing a sticking problem with one of the best platformers of all time. Even more annoyingly, Christian Whitehead did post a video of Sonic 3 running on his Retro Engine as a ‘proof of concept’. You know, the engine that runs at blistering speeds on any kind of mobile device you can think of. Sigh. It must be a priority. It’s one of Sega’s greatest ever games. It has to happen.
Asterix (Master System)
This is seriously one of the best Mario rip-offs ever made. Boasting large, colourful, beautifully-drawn sprites and complex levels full of secrets, not to mention two playable characters with different approaches to the levels, this is sheer class. Again, it’ll be a licensing issue, if anything, that prevents this coming to the mobile platform, but at least the game was developed and published by Sega, so it’s only the rights to the Asterix IP that would need to be cleared. Either way, this game deserves far better than to be forgotten. And the Master System control pad is so simple, it would work so well on a touch screen interface. It has to happen.
Virtua Racing (Mega Drive/Genesis)
It’s amazing, really. This game used to be the Most Exciting Thing In Gaming. It was the dawn of the 3D era, as polygons started to fly around our screens instead of the 2D sprites we’d known for years. The arcade machine was an absolute beast at the time, and yet – somehow – Sega managed to convert all three circuits to the humble Mega Drive / Genesis, thanks to a special processor, equivalent to Nintendo’s Super FX chip. The frame rate is dodgy, the 3D painfully primitive… BUT with a little spit and polish, an optimised mobile version would absolutely rock. The flat-shaded graphics aged very quickly, but now they just look stylised. Only a tricky conversion process is stopping this one. We demand it.
Virtua Fighter 3tb (Dreamcast)
If we had the choice of any VF game on mobile, it would actually be the arcade version (or HD re-release) of the arcade version of Virtua Fighter 2. But since Sega Forever is concentrating on console games for the time being at least, we’d rather have VF3 from Dreamcast than VF2 from Saturn. The Saturn version is still wonderful, but VF3 was the first home version with full 3D backgrounds, and would look pretty lovely on a small screen. Control might be an issue with four buttons and a d-pad, but Sega Forever does support controllers, meaning there’s no reason this couldn’t happen. If Dreamcast software is already demonstrably up and running, this is a no-brainer.
NiGHTS into Dreams (Saturn)
Sonic Team’s big Christmas game of 1996 is a classic, but it’s being forgotten as gaming moves on and NiGHTS lies crying over having its sequel moved from PS3/360 to Wii and being half good, half crap. But even though the original was reworked for PS2 and then that was given the HD treatment for PS3/360, no subsequent version has ever moved with the same joyous fluidity as the Saturn original. The only obstacle preventing a mobile Saturn version now is the troublesome emulation of the Saturn hardware. But it is the Saturn version we want to see. Or the HD version with the Saturn’s physics. Either would be great. The team wants to get this on Sega Forever, so it’s surely only a matter of ‘when’, not ‘if’.
Propeller Arena (Dreamcast - unreleased)
Imagine if the Beatles had written a song about planes flying around skyscrapers, and it was due for release the same week that 9/11 happened. Well, metaphorically, that’s Propeller Arena. It’s a Dreamcast dogfighting game designed by AM#2, one of the all-time best developers of video games, set around cities. Of course it was cancelled. And with the Dreamcast in its death throes anyway, it was left in limbo, never revisited aside from being leaked to the internet as a ROM dump. It could finally see an official release now. And it’s definitely a consideration – when I spoke to the team, they finished my sentence before I said its name. It’s something they want to do, and one we want to play.
The Lucky Dime Caper starring Donald Duck (Master System/Game Gear)
Back in the day, this was an essential purchase if you owned a Master System or a Game Gear. It’s still a wonderful platformer today, featuring a pleasing level selection system with two tiers of three stages offering the player some degree of choice - particularly useful if you suck at the game and can’t finish a single level. The Disney influence is obvious in the quality of the sprite work, the 8-bit music is utterly fantastic, and there’s a bucketload of charm applied to every single screen. Again, it’s the Disney license that’s holding this one back from a re-release, but we really, really hope that obstacle can be overcome. This one’s a real treasure.
Daytona USA 2001 (Dreamcast)
This classic arcade racer received a superlative HD conversion a few years ago for PS3/360, but Sega Forever is about console gaming. So the best console version prior to that was 2001’s Dreamcast conversion. It’s a beauty, too. Not only does it feature the tracks from the original game, plus the extra ones made for the second Saturn attempt, it also features more, Dreamcast-exclusive circuits. It was even designed to feature online play, although that sadly never reached European gamers when it launched. But with the online code presumably ripe for converting (and designed to run on slow connections), an online-enabled Dreamcast Daytona on mobile would kick ass.
Virtua Striker 2 ver 2000.1 (Dreamcast)
This is simultaneously the best and worst football game ever made. The players turn and run away from the ball no matter what you’re pressing on the d-pad, keeping possession while running with the ball for more than three seconds is an absolute miracle, and the announcer is ‘enthusiastic’ to say the least. But it’s also artistically gorgeous, features a superb goal rating system, and makes every goal feel like the most important thing that ever happened. Although there are licensed sponsors on the advertising hoardings, they could be removed without adversely affecting the experience. This would be so beautiful running at 60fps on a mobile phone.
Resident Evil Code: Veronica (Dreamcast)
Capcom hasn’t been approached yet about any of its back catalogue of games on Sega hardware, but this Resi is one that we really want to have in our pockets. After Dino Crisis on PS1 explored the possibility of a fully-3D Resi game, Dreamcast provided the processing oomph to pull it off in style. It’s the last game to use the classic Resi template before RE4 rewrote the playbook. But it’s still a great-looking title, and one that surely only needs a nod from Capcom to get the go-ahead. Fingers crossed.
Power Stone/Power Stone 2 (Dreamcast)
While we’re on the subject of Capcom games, this is another one that really shouldn’t have disappeared from the public consciousness like it has. Last seen on Sony PSP (which bodes well for a Sega Forever re-release green light), these two fighting classics are a rarity – full 3D scrappers. You can run around the 3D arenas anywhere you want, and attack your opponent with anything you can find. Throw a chair, launch a rocket, or turn into your super-powered alter-ego and rain fiery death from above. It’s already proven to work on a small screen, and with controller support, this would be like having a portable Dreamcast for 4-player shenanigans.
Burning Rangers (Saturn)
Sonic Team’s other game to use the NiGHTS engine on Saturn is a bit of a mess when viewed with 2017’s eyes. Flaky frame-rate, glitchy collision detection and flickering polys are not conducive to a fun gaming experience. But Sega Forever could change all that. If the 3D was made more stable and the frame rate boosted even to just a solid 30fps, Burning Rangers would surely shine. There’s nothing wrong with the game itself – you must enter burning, futuristic buildings, and beam survivors to safety, Star Trek style. Control might be an issue with the touch screen, but with a controller and an iPad, this could end up being the best way to play what should, by rights, have been an all-time classic. There’s still time.
Phantasy Star Online (Dreamcast)
People still play this, some 16 years after its release. It’s an online RPG where you and three friends can walk around shooting dragons and fulfilling small quests. It’s modest by today’s standards, but still has some interesting features, such as the automatic language translation. Choose from pre-set dialogue options and each line is displayed in whatever native language your team-mates are playing in. It’s a fantastic way of bringing the world together via gaming. And the game itself is fun and well-designed. And since modems were objectively awful 16 years ago, the chances of a 3G connection running the game OK are high.
Dark Savior (Saturn)
This somewhat little-known RPG is the sequel to Landstalker: The Treasure of King Nole on Mega Drive / Genesis. But it’s far superior. For starters, the isometric viewpoint from Landstalker returns, only now the environments are rendered in full 3D, allowing you to tilt the camera 45 degrees in each direction to line up tricky jumps. It’s also got a superb branching storyline that means finishing it once is only part of the game. There are further parallels opened up by completing key sequences differently. Basically it’s awesome. And best of all: it’s published by Sega, meaning the license shouldn’t be too much trouble for the team to green light.
Road Rash (Mega Drive/Genesis)
While EA owns the license to this game, it has already been successfully emulated on PSP, so porting that code to mobile shouldn’t be too difficult a task. The PSP version omitted the strange-sounding but blimmin’ fantastic soundtrack, so we’d want that back too. In case you never played it, Road Rash is a beat-em-up on bikes, where you hit your opponents with your fists, feet, or a club. Road Rash 2 had a chain. Road Rash 3 had… grannies. Hmmmm. But there’s something special about Road Rash’s hand-drawn sprites, and if the frame-rate was enhanced for mobile, it would be retro heaven. Chance of it making the list? Reasonably high.
Knuckles Chaotix (Sega 32X)
This is a cheeky one, because the team told us straight that 32X emulation is even harder than Saturn due to the complex architecture of the Mega Drive / Genesis hardware add-on, so they’re not looking to do it as a priority. But Chaotix is effectively the last of the original 2D Sonic games (even though you don’t get to play as Sonic in it). The art style is gorgeous, and the tether mechanic between characters is something we never got to play with elsewhere. With original cartridge copies now going for stupid money on eBay, a high-quality mobile conversion is something we’d dearly love to try. It would arguably be the perfect job for Christian Whitehead after he finishes Sonic Mania, but we want Sonic Mania 2 so… he can stay on that. Ta.